Director: Clay Liford
Writer: Clay Liford
Cast: Rebecca Spence, Peter Greene, Amelia Turner, Matt Socia, William Katt
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Summary: After a mysterious atmospheric event, a small group of people wake up to realize that their entire lives have been a lie. They are in fact aliens disguised as humans. Now they have to make a choice. Live amongst men, or try to find a way back home
Run Time: 114 minutes
The independent sci-fi film Earthling opens an alien connection between an unlikely group of characters and reflexively changes the trajectory of their lives. I had the opportunity to see Earthling in competition at the Dallas International Film Festival and was delighted to be able to support an independent sci-fi film made locally in Texas.
Earthling’s artfully woven premise lays out an intriguing situation that tests the humanity of this band of characters. According to filmmaker, Clay Liford, the film is “about life and the absence of life. Birth. Rebirth. What it means to be human.”
The talent that this indie film showcases is utterly brilliant. I was remarkably impressed by the performances of the two female leads – Rebecca Spence (The Break-Up, Grace Is Gone, Public Enemies) playing the main character, Judith, and Amelia Turner, playing the mysteriously influential Abby coming into Judith’s life. The dynamic these two actresses bring is the most striking and unforgettable element of this film.
Spence’s performance as Judith, a schoolteacher who learns that her infertility is due to an unearthly condition, is layered across many dimensions as you see her internal struggle play upon her face, posture, emotions, and voice. Liford wanted you to see this woman’s life not in the context of a damsel in distress, but as a being conflicted in what defines her existence. Spence was one of the few actors imported in for this Texan production. She brings nuances to this character with every movement and every breath that she takes on screen.
Playing opposite Spence is Turner’s role as Abby, who is the catalyst for Judith’s pivotal revelation in the film. Turner is an Austin local and her casting was a moment of absolute brilliance for film creator Clay Liford. Turner’s part was originally written for a teenage boy, but her being cast in this role lit a fire under the relationship between these two central female characters. Turner’s bold and fearless portrayal of Abby is more than head-turning. This actress will be one to watch for sure.
This central point of connection and conflict of Earthling forces a choice in Judith between humanity and the truth about this alien calling. Peter Greene’s (Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects) presence in this film brings a staid yet imposing facet to this story. The other characters in the film round out an unusual ensemble cast that hits the tone of the film on the head.
The film’s plot twists are punctuated by moments of horror and in some points, humor, which is an accomplishment in itself to be able to pull off in the breadth of a hard sci-fi film. The latter half of Earthling can become a little confusing due to the high level of emotions prevailing in the scenes, but it is indeed an ambitious effort.
Texan filmmaker, Clay Liford wrote, shot, directed, and edited Earthling as his first heavy drama feature. This film was not made for the masses. Liford’s love of the sci-fi genre drove him to make this film as an intelligent film that will engage you as a viewer and respect the fact that you are an intelligent consumer of the sci-fi genre. Keep an eye out for SciFi Mafia’s exclusive interview with Liford for more on this topic. Liford currently has a comedic short film, My Mom Smokes Weed, which screened at Sundance and is also making the festival circuit run concurrently with Earthling. Earthling premiered at SXSW this spring.
Support indie sci-fi films and go see Earthling! It is an official selection of SXSW, Sci-Fi London, DIFF, and Santa Cruz Film Festival just to name a few. Earthling screens at Outfest in Los Angeles on July 10th. Check the film’s official site for future festival dates.
I give Earthling Three Out of Five Stars.